Monday, February 2, 2009

relationally connecting to what?

An interesting struggle is emerging through our community and this last week there was a heated debate, rising anxiety among some, around absolute (T)ruth. It has been a gift to have at our weekly table gathering an assortment of faith backgrounds. This gift, however, comes with its own challenges for the determining ground centering our engagement and very reason for gathering in the first place. The community reflects right and left perspectives, those embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior and those merely listening in with a lot to contribute to the conversation.

Recently Peter Rollins in his blog mentions a significant conversation that arose in a dialogue he participated in at Calvin College. He said this debate centered around "the place and nature of belief in faith." What he is really getting at is that faith is an embodied expression and beyond mere reductionary efforts propositionally framed. In fact these propositions are in no way predictors for the very embodiment they seek to describe, and in fact, are quite alienating and impersonal.

It is precisely this embodied form of faith that I have been particularly intrigued for quite a while. Equally, what does it look like to begin cultivating a community with this as its primary emphasis for being church, the people of God in Jesus through the Spirit for the life of the world?

When and as we go down the road of challenging our propositions, our subjective way for describing God, it raises significant issues for how we are engaging with one another, and quite frankly where the hell God can be found in it all. Often times it escalates into an emotional WWF tag-team match, smashing theological and biblical chairs over each others' heads only to be left with bloodied and bruised bodies. (NOW WASN'T THAT FUN?) There are NO winners and losers in this, we are all losers.

What I believe has happened is that these kinds of conversations, which are secondary discourse engagements, have been misplaced as the primary arena for our God engagement. We have substituted the primary discourse for being the people of God, allowing and reflecting God's grace, reconciliation, peace, mercy, forgiveness and hope for our thoughts about it. Our thoughts about the "it" quickly deteriorates into who can be included as well as the correct procedural requirements for participation. The consequence of which result in heated debates where what is at stake is our concern for defending God no matter who is hurt or alienated in the process.

For me, it is not the ideas of God we are relationally connecting to, although there are deep ceded and strong feelings around them and they do reference helpful convictions and claims for who God is and who God is not. It is our ability to see outside of ourselves or view with a new kind of lens for how we are embodying the very thing we seek to articulate. What is this thing? It is the Trinitarian social community of God in, through and under (absolute)ly everything that we do, say and think. This is why for me there is a great necessity around how we are listening to and discerning (sifting) with one another. It is the "creating space in me for you" reality for where God is acting on me, not just me acting to defend a particular description of God for others to adopt and agree with. I/We become the very ground we are seeking to describe. The space itself becomes the very practice field, or demonstration plot to use Craig Van Gelder's organic metaphor, for what the kingdom of God reality can be like as it breaks into the world and around which we are being caught up in its very own life.

It is this space too that is prophetic in the sense that it becomes a word of challenge pushing back on us and the world through us. We need to pay attention to this very thing in us that resists and gets defensive for this is where God is working to break forth something new and set us free for a greater capacity to love and make space for our neighbor.

So my question comes back: relationally connecting to what? The question really needs to be, relationally connecting to whom? Unfortunately we have taken God, placed God as a cadaver out on a table before us to dissect with any real certainty. God however is not the object before us to examine, but the very subject that has encompassed all of life including us, for us to discern in and around as the very reorienting point for understanding our life as in God, or in Christ as Paul suggests.

For me, in our relationships we are connecting to more than ideas, for our ideas of God will more than frequently say a hell of a lot more about ourselves than about God. Relationally we are connecting to the God being made flesh in my neighbor and in me simultaneously. Together we are discerning this God emergence. It is the community's challenge to see with new eyes and hear with new ears how God is actually acting on us through our discomfort and joy, our disagreement and hopes. Cultivating a community in this fashion is making disciples, it is the substance and kind of disciples God desires us to be, not just getting adherents who agree with us about how we have come to articulate God.


Timothy Wright said...


Just followed your blog from a twit. I was interested in the whole emerging thing, then I came back to the person and presence of Jesus. Jesus came to set people free, free from sin, self, isolation, false identity. To be the shalom we could never be.

I really don't what we have to offer people if it isn't freedom in Jesus. The emergent thing to me is dead. It is a spiritual culde sac.

Jesus came to that the will of the Father will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We need to do ALL that he said, feed the hungry, care for orphan & widow, cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, proclaim him as everlasting life. I pray that the people who you dialogue with experience the freedom of Christ.


david said...

thanks for taking the time to engage with me. i'm not arguing anything emergent and don't seem to recall making any mention of it in this blog. what i'm suggesting is for the whole church of jesus christ, not just for one segment of the population. i think if you read more within and even sat down with me to get to know me, you'd realize how much of what you say i too share as a passion and conviction.

but since you brought up the emerging thing, i'll have to say if emergents aren't focusing on jesus they're missing the point. i don't know what circles you've been hanging out in, but the ones i've gotten to know and visited share a deep jesus conviction in and through all they do. i haven't experience emerging christainity in the way you speak of it. in actuality i've found a great deal of freedom with it to explore, question and engage in REAL ways that the traditional models haven't always allowed.

so thanks for your thoughts, love to wonder further with you about what Jesus is up to in the world. just know this, this curious one can't let go of jesus, but even more importantly i've realized, is that jesus will never let go of me.